Introducing our new case studies of Oxfam’s research in practice

Martin Walsh Methodology, Research

High quality research is an integral part of evidence-informed advocacy and development programming. Here Martin Walsh, Global Research Adviser, introduces our new series of case studies, starting with one about the research  behind Oxfam’s most talked-about killer fact, and another discussing a methodologically challenging impact evaluation in Pakistan.

Following the success of our online research guidelines, we’re launching a new series of accessible case studies of research in practice. Drawing on Oxfam’s experience in conducting and commissioning research around the world, these are intended to complement the research guidelines, illustrating their application and other aspects of research practice that are exemplary, challenging, or otherwise notable. The case studies are written in a clear and readable style, each of them concluding with a concise summary of the principal lessons learned.

We’re posting two case studies to begin with. The first of these, Researching the killer fact that highlighted global economic inequality, was written by Australian researcher and development consultant Leila Smith.  It describes how Oxfam researchers developed an especially powerful killer fact – “The 85 richest people own the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people” – for its policy paper Working for the Few and advocacy around the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos. This triggered international media coverage, extensive political commentary, and record-level website hits. How did they do it? Read Leila’s instructive four-page study!

The second case study, Mixing research methods in an impact evaluation in Pakistan, has been written by Oxfam researcher Franziska Mager. Her enlightening study discusses one of Oxfam’s first attempts to integrate qualitative research into an effectiveness review (about Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan) that was based primarily on the use of a quantitative methodology. It examines the way in which different qualitative research methods, including literature review, semi-structured interviews, and focus group discussions, were used to inform survey research and analysis, as well as the various problems encountered in this process. To find out what lessons we learned from this, please turn to Franziska’s lucid account.

Here are the first two research in practice case studies:

We’ll keep on adding to the new series when we can. Here too is the current list of published research guidelines, some of which are also available in French and Spanish:


Francesca El Asmar